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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: endangered wildlife (2)

Leatherback Turtle found

by Kate C
Publish date
21 June 2011
Comments (8)

The body of an enormous female Leatherback Turtle was brought to Melbourne Museum on Thursday last week after washing up at Airey’s Inlet.

Leatherback Turtle The two metre female Leatherback Turtle in the Preparation Lab at Melbourne Museum.
Image: Veronica Scholes
Source: Museum Victoria

A member of the public spotted the ailing turtle while it was still alive. Local authorities called the Melbourne Aquarium, which runs the Turtle Rescue and Release Program that rehabilitates tropical turtles that have strayed into cold southern waters. Unfortunately the Leatherback Turtle was too unwell to save and it lived just a few more hours. It was brought to Melbourne Museum early on Thursday morning for post-mortem examination to work out why it died.

Melbourne Aquarium vet, Dr Rob Jones, says it’s only the second Leatherback Turtle to wash up in Victoria since 1999, with smaller species such as Green Sea Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles more commonly assisted by the successful Turtle Release and Rescue Program.

Dr Jones examined the turtle on Thursday afternoon. “The age is difficult to guess,” he explains. “She had an inactive ovary, so she was possibly still immature or had laid eggs within the last six months. But at two metres long, the size suggests she was mature.” He found a small ulcer in her intestine that was probably from parasite, and signs of dehydration, but no clear cause of death. “It was disappointing not to be able to find the answer.”

The skeleton of the turtle will become part of the Museum Victoria research collection, since complete skeletons of this species are rare. The museum will also retain soft tissues for the DNA collection and barnacles and mussels from its shell for the Marine Invertebrates collection.

Barnacles on the turtle shell Barnacles on the turtle's shell.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

The Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest living turtle and has the widest distribution of the sea turtles. Their soft shells are unique; other species have tough protective plates called scutes as a kind of external armour, but Leatherback Turtles have small bones embedded in tough leathery skin. Another distinctive feature of these animals is their diet – they eat mostly jellyfish and have evolved a mouth full of fleshy spines to grip their soft prey. They migrate long distances in search of food, often visiting southern waters near Victoria between January and May when the sea is warm.

Inside the mouth of a Leatherback Turtle Inside the mouth of a Leatherback Turtle. The fleshy spines are adaptations to a jellyfish diet.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Leatherback Turtles are critically endangered and have suffered serious declines due to human activity. They are often drowned in fishing nets or choke when they mistake plastic bags for food.

Marine wildlife in need of rescue should be reported to the Department of Sustainability and Environment

  • Report stranded, entangled or sick penguins, turtles and seals to DSE on 136 186. 
  • Contact the Whale and Dolphin Emergency Hotline on 1300 136 017 if you find stranded, entangled, sick or injured whales or dolphins.



Melbourne Aquarium Conservation Programs

WWF: Leatherback Turtles close to the brink

Shark Bay World Heritage Area: Leatherback Turtle fact sheet

BIRD: Leatherback Turtle

Lost and Found

by Kate C
Publish date
5 April 2011
Comments (3)

The story of Leadbeater's Possum is so interwoven with the history of Museum Victoria that there was no better place to celebrate it than at Melbourne Museum last Sunday.

This tiny, highlands marsupial was first described by the museum's director, Sir Frederick McCoy in 1867, who named it Gymnobelideus leadbeateri after our first taxidermist, John Leadbeater.

By the 1900s, it was thought extinct. No one saw it for decades. Charles Brazenor, later to become director of the museum, published a plea in 1946 for naturalists to find the creature to no avail. In 1961, a young museum employee changed the fate of Leadbeater's Possum. The amazing story of its rediscovery is recorded in this short film by Curator of History of Science, Rebecca Carland:

On Sunday 3 April, exactly 50 years after his first glimpse of a wild Leadbeater's Possum, Eric was honoured at a ceremony jointly organised by Parks Victoria, Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum and Museum Victoria. On behalf of the museum and the people of Victoria, Robin Hirst presented Eric with a print of Leadbeater's Possum from the Prodromus of Zoology.

Attendees at Leadbeater's event L-R: Robin Hirst, Director of Collections, Research and Exhibitions; Eric Wilkinson; CEO Patrick Greene and curator Rebecca Carland.
Image: Liza Dale-Hallet
Source: Museum Victoria

Eric handed a young sapling of Mountain Ash as a symbolic baton of care to a representative of the of the group HELP (Help the Endangered Leadbeater's Possum). Four Year 7 students started HELP in 2009 to raise awareness of the plight of the species and to gather funds to assist in its future survival. Eric spoke about the inspiring work they've done so far, and the important role of the next generation in protecting our state's faunal emblem.

Students Jo Antrobus from Parks Victoria with students from St. Margarets School, Berwick, special guest speaker and environment ambassador Sheree Marris and Lake Mountain mascot Lenny Leadbeater. Lake Mountain is home to most of the remaining Leadbeater's Possum habitat.
Image: Liza Dale-Hallett
Source: Museum Victoria


The Age article: Hello, possums! Breed saved from extinction 50 years on

Leadbeater's Possum on Collections Online

Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.